Junior Spotlight: Kyle Kang
Kyle Kang doesn’t have to go far when he needs a little bit of advice when navigating the often tough road of junior tennis.
A 13-year-old ranked among the top 14-year-olds in the Southern California Tennis Association, Fullerton’s Kang has been playing up in the 16s, like he did in the Woody Hunt Memorial Tournament recently played in the South Bay.
There will be early-round defeats – Kang won a round before falling in the second round – but Kang is prepared to pay the price that comes with playing up.
Kang discusses the decision to play up or not with his father David before each tournament. “My dad wanted me to see how I play against some of the other older top players,” Kang said. “So we made the decision to play up.”
An eighth-grader at Parkview School, Kang said he will enter the upcoming 116th Annual SCTA Junior Sectionals in the 16s.
“You can’t be on the defense too much against the bigger players,” he said. “You’ve got to stay offensive and stay really aggressive. My shots weren’t quite big enough to pass and they would keep it deep, so I would miss.”
Kang first started playing tennis at age five and a half, and works with longtime coach Dave Mann at the Fullerton Tennis Center.
Kang has not made the decision if he will travel this summer to the USTA Hardcourt 14s Nationals. He’s never played Hardcourt Nationals, but has traveled to Florida and Tennessee for national-level events.
He didn’t have to travel far for the USTA Spring Nationals at the Easter Bowl in March at Indian Wells where he won a round in the 14s before falling to top-seeded and eventual finalist Samir Banerjee. Kang was honored with the Sportsmanship Award for his quiet demeanor and easy-going attitude.
Just one year earlier, an unseeded Kang came out of nowhere to win the Easter Bowl 12s singles title in straight sets, serving notice that he could play with some of the best players in the nation at his age level.
Kang, who has an older sister and brother who play tennis, played baseball, soccer and swam before deciding to dedicate himself entirely to his tennis. “I like playing team sports, but I like being independent and not worrying about teammates making mistakes and like that it’s only you on the court,” he said. “I think if you play different sports it can help your tennis, like in soccer with your footwork and movement.”
Kang said he was even interested in playing football, but his parents were against it.
Kang wants to be a pro tennis player someday, just like his favorite pro player South Korea’s Chung Hyeon. “I’d like to go to college for one year, then turn pro,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”